Rivalry Revenge is Sweet

Maybe it's not Duke-Carolina, but Notre Dame-Boston College is becoming special in Big East circles. The Irish got some revenge for the football team Saturday afternoon and, more importantly, kept alive a four-game conference winning streak. Devotees of the Blue and Gold will enjoy post-game comments Chris Thomas made to IrishEyes Managing Editor Alan Tieuli. Here's the report from Conte Forum.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

January 25, 2003

Irish-BC Rivalry
In Overtime and Overdrive

By Alan Tieuli
 IrishEyes Magazine

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (IE) – He noticed the Boston College students holding up the banner “thanking” Pat Dillingham for his help during the BC-Notre Dame football game this past Nov. 2.

He noticed the three students in the front row who had pained their bodies maroon and gold with “14-7” brandished across their chests.

So, following Notre Dame’s pulsating 101-96 overtime victory over Boston College Saturday afternoon, Irish point guard Chris Thomas sent his own message.

“It’d kind of bad actually,” Thomas grinned, “but like people say, ‘People who can’t get into Notre Dame go to BC’.”

Thomas was having fun with what is fast becoming one of Notre Dame’s top rivalries, in all sports.  He was quick to point out to IrishEyes, “Hey, that’s not my take; it’s what society perceives it to be.”

There’s no question that ND-BC has become a match-up with bite.  It’s a hot ticket – the Eagles sold out Conte Forum for the first time this season – and the passion in the building brought needed warmth to another bitterly cold New England day.   It may be a stretch to call this the Catholic version of Duke-Carolina, but could this be Notre Dame’s top Big East rival?

“As soon as you step on the floor, you can feel the hatred of the two schools,” said Notre Dame sophomore forward Jordan Cornette.   “Nothing’s better, going into an arena packed full of fans and silencing them and coming out with a victory.”

Alas, because the two schools are in different divisions of the Big East, you will not see this contest on an annual basis.   This was Notre Dame’s first hoops visit to picturesque Chestnut Hill since 1999, and the Irish’s first victory here in 13 years.

“Their students don’t like us, and our students don’t like them,” said ND freshman center Torin Francis, who grew up six miles and a dozen or so Mass Transit stops from Conte Forum. “It definitely has the makings of a special rivalry.”

And while this victory may not totally erase the bad memories from this past November, it was a nice start.

Notre Dame is now 4-1 in the Big and 16-3 overall, its best start since 1980-81.  It completed a grueling three-game road trip – including three round trips from campus in eight days – 2-1 and will now be rewarded with three of the next four contests at home.

Boston College – dysfunctional and inconsistent all year after losing team leader Uka Agbai to a serious neck injury – is 8-8 overall, 1-4 in the Big East.

"I thought our poise at Providence (Tuesday night) was good,” said head coach Mike Brey.  “Today it was great.”

The Irish played a near flawless offensive first-half, and took a 10-point lead (47-37) into intermission.  But that quickly turned into a 55-50 deficit as the hosts rattled off an 18-3 run the first six minutes of the second-half, fueled by a 2001-like performance by Troy  Bell (31 points overall, seven points and two assists in the run).

The building was shaking, but there was little reason to worry.  Thomas was at his best.

The sophomore guard had a remarkable 28-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist effort, contributing to his team’s success by taking what the BC defense was giving him.  It was exactly the type of performance Brey has been looking for from his number one.

“He scored three points in the first-half, involved everybody and we scored 47 points,” said Brey. “In the second-half, they defend us better and he’s goes and scores 25.  That was his best game on the road running the team.”

Thomas hit a three-point shot up top to give the Irish a 71-65 edge with 7:17 to go, but BC showed pluck.  Bell scored his team’s last seven points of regulation, including two free throws with 26.4 seconds remaining, to send the game into overtime.  

“On the road usually, when the road team doesn’t get it in regulation, sometimes the momentum swings so hard the home team takes it,” said Brey. “I was concerned going into overtime.”

He shouldn’t have been.  BC, starting two freshmen and with a bench that only goes two deep, was out of gas in the OT.  Matt Carroll – literally bruised head to toe after a nasty first-half fall – hit a huge three-point shot with 2:36 to play while being fouled by the erratic Ryan Sidney.  The subsequent free throw made it 88-83 and ND defended its lead by sinking 11-of-16 free throws down the stretch.

“I’ll live with Matt Carroll shooting that thing with our life on the line forever,” said Brey.

Carroll finished with 18 points on four-for-15 shooting, but the biggest win of the day may have been that he could walk out of Conte.  He was briefly knocked unconscious after enduring a hard foul by Sidney on a breakout lay-up attempt in the first-half.

“My hip, my side, my butt, my elbow and my forearm,” Carroll replied when asked by IrishEyes where it hurt. “The elbow swelled up pretty good, about an inch, like a baseball.  It spread out as the game went on.  I couldn’t walk too well.”

But when Carroll hit the game-deciding three-pointer, he lay on the Conte parquet for an extra second and looked skyward.

“I was saying ‘Thank you’,” Carroll said. “I was thankful to be able to hang in there, fight through it, and help the team.”

Carroll then also got into the spirit of the BC-ND rivalry.

“We had to win this game,” he said. “The minute we stepped on the court, all I heard was ‘Hey, where are your green uni’s.’  It’s not football season anymore, but that’s the way BC fans look at it.”

Francis was another nice story in this victory.  He scored 15 points and had eight rebounds, and while BC’s 6-7 manchild Craig Smith had a statistical edge (24 points, 15 rebound), Francis fit his role perfectly, and with maturity.

“My Tabor team played (Smith’s) Worcester Academy (team) twice last year,” Francis said. “We lost both.   So it was nice to get back at him a little bit.”

“I don’t think of (Francis) as a freshman any more,” said Brey.  “He handled this week on the road beautifully.”

Dan Miller had a nice bounceback game for the Irish, establishing a personal Big East high in points (16) while also making a terrific pass out of the post on Carroll’s game-clinching three.  Cornette led the Irish in rebounds (11) and set the tone early with strong post defense on Smith.

“I can improve even more defensively,” said Cornette, who had three blocked shots and an enormous exchange with Bell, jumping out on a switch to force a held ball (ND possession) with 41 seconds to go in regulation. “On this team, Chris, Matt and Dan to hit their shots, and it’s Torin’s job to rebound and mine to play good post-defense and help on the boards.  It’s all working now, and this is the type of winning I’m accustomed to.”

Chris Quinn scored 10 points – all in the first-half – as the Irish had five players in double figures for the first time in Big East play this season, and only the fourth time in the last three conference season.

For his part, Brey is glad to have Boston College in the rearview mirror – rivalry or not.

“I’m glad they’re not in the West Division, so we don’t have to play them again,” he said. “They are a very talented basketball team.”

But, on this day and this season to date, not in the same class as the Irish.

 -0- 

IRISHEYES NOTEBOOK: One incident in the game spoke volumes about BC’s team chemistry.  With 6:40 to play, Eagle center Nate Doornekamp received an unintentional blow below the belt and was on his back, in pain, in the foul-line for several seconds.  Not one of his teammates checked on his welfare or offered a hand.  Finally, official John Clougherty extended his arm to assist Doornekamp to his feet.  The Massachusetts squad is the leader in the clubhouse for the most underachieving team in the Big East…….The Irish are scheduled to fly home commercially Sunday morning, and that will give Ryan Humphrey – in town with the Orlando Magic to play the Celtics on Sunday – the chance to catch up with his old mates.  ND senior manager Malcolm Farmer, Humphrey’s best friend on the team last year, was eager to see Humphrey, who was on the injured list with the Magic but is now ready to go……Boston College’s public address announcer is Andy Jick, who was the PA voice of the Celtics during the Larry Bird-era at the Boston Garden.  Classy…….This was the first time the ND radio team of Jack Lorri and Jack Nolan have been in Conte since the pair was flattened behind the press table by a flying Jonathan Beerbohm in 1999, leading to one of Lorri’s best comments in a legendary career.   Equipment was scattered all over the floor and Lorri was bleeding from his hand after the collision, a point quickly made by his concerned on-air partner. Lorri said without missing a beat, said “Skin I can grow, equipment costs money.”…..Notre Dame kept BC in the game by missing six second-half free throws – including the front-end of two one-and-ones – but still ended up plus-18 at the charity stripe.  “You’re not going to win many games when a team makes more free throws (31) than we take (19),” said BC coach Al Skinner.  “For Craig Smith to only get to the line five times, that’s hard to believe.  And Ryan Sidney did not get to the free throw line for the first time in a long time.”……Notre Dame was outrebounded, 48-44, and Brey cracked “Thank God they don’t count your record with rebounding or we’d be like 2-15.”  The Irish have been beaten off the glass six straight games and 10 of the last 12…..In case you’re wondering, putting Notre Dame and Boston College in the same division when the Big East realigned was never a consideration. “Maintaining signature rivalries like Georgetown-Syracuse, St. John’s-Connecticut was a big consideration,” said John Paquette, the Big East’s communications director. “Putting Pittsburgh and West Virginia together made sense, as did Seton Hall-Rutgers.”

 (Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes Magazine and can be reached at aatandsonspr@aol.com.   For subscription information on IrishEyes Magazine please visit www.irisheyes.com or call 888-501-5752)

 


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